The Comicon Monthly Megazine Preview – Issue 403: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Dredd-Mas

by Richard Bruton

Well, it’s all very festive on the cover of this month’s Megazine. Nothing like a good pun for the holiday season, eh? Another cracker (sorry) of a cover from Cliff Robinson, with Dylan Teague.
The Megazine 403 is out on the 19th of December, just in time to be a nice little last minute stocking filler for us folks in the UK. But, unless you fancy a digital delight, you North American ladies and gentlefolks will have to wait into the new year, I’m, afraid.

JUDGE DREDD: THE FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS – Alex De Campi, Patrick Goddard, colors Matt Soffe, letters Annie Parkhouse.
A neat one and done special Xmas tale, something De Campi is making something of a habit of. On art this Prog, she’s joined by Patrick Goddard, an artist who really doesn’t get his due, probably down to the straightforward, relatively non-showy nature of what he does.
But, the thing with Goddard’s art that we should be celebrating is just how damn good he is at getting all the basics spot on, giving any story a wonderful solidity and a perfect flow. It’s the equivalent of being an excellent letterer in a way, that art of doing what you do so well that it’s almost not noticed.
Although, that’s not to say Goddard’s art doesn’t have that capability to wow. Take this half page for example, just a gorgeous bit of construction here…

As for the actual story, well, it’s De Campi doing the single issue tale so perfectly, managing to craft something complex in a limited page count, a murder mystery full of intrigue and manipulation, a little bit of Christmas but a lot of clever, as Dredd bumps into a familiar Christmas face he thought was in the iso-cubes for good.

LAWLESS: ASHES TO ASHES – PART 4 – Dan Abnett, Phil Winslade, letters Ellie De Ville.
In the ever excellent Lawless, the siege continues, with Marshal Meta Lawson and the forces of Badrock really up against it, the full power and money of Munce Inc. determined to simply raze the town to the ground. And with a supermassive Mek bearing down, things look like they might well be over in less than an hour. Yes, there’s one potential way out, but it’s going to come at a huge cost.

And then, almost impossibly, just when things look their worst… they manage to nosedive into worst thing possible territory, with an unexpected end that, potentially, takes things into a very different direction. Lawless continues to be a thing of beauty, with Phil Winslade’s black and white, super detailed artwork so tight and textured. Although, in truth, as the action has ramped up in Lawless, I’ve been getting slightly less out of it. I find I’m missing the complicated, oft times hilarious, to and fro of previous series. But, even with that very small criticism, it’s still been a blast, and the unexpected arrival on the final page could well turn things upside down once more.

STORM WARNING: OVER MY DEAD BODY – PART 4 (FINAL PART) – Leah Moore, John Reppion, Jimmy Broxton, letters Simon Bowland.
Ghosts abound in this Brit-Cit tale’s finale. It’s been a satisfying, if not overly stunning or surprising, romp. Obviously, the star of the show is Judge Lillian Storm, miserably working her way through her psi-cases with a pissed off attitude and perma-scowl on her face. Which is exactly as it should be. Kudos as well for actually giving us a female Judge that looks the part. Almost an anti-Anderson, whose ridiculously youthful looks are just completely at odds with her age and the sheer grind of what she does. Psi-Judge Storm has the look, and the mood, of someone who has to put up with some atrocious shite, putting her under intense mental and physical stresses. Frankly, she looks about as knackered as she should do. Fine job from writers and artist both.

And whilst we’re talking art, Jimmy Broxton’s done some wonderful things here, not just in making Storm look old and tired before her time, but in his depiction of the supernatural goings-on. And then there’s the little moments of great work, such as that shot of Storm reproduced above, that moment that Storm lets loose just the best of it, with Broxton leaving it all rough round the edge to make it work so well.

BLUNT II – PART 4 – TC Eglington, Boo Cook, letters Simon Bowland.
Well, as we move towards the end game on Blunt, there’s familiar names cropping up (here and in Lawless in fact!), mysteries to be solved and a whole load of trouble to be avoided. But, mostly, this episode is setting it all up for the ending and I spent my time looking at Boo Cook’s artwork. Which is bizarre, in the best way. Just look at this…

There’s something really unusual and different about Cook’s art, as different to the norm as Winslade’s b&w in Lawless. It’s got an organic feel, but more than that, there’s an uncomfortable feel to it, almost in the way some of Kevin O’Neill’s art has. And I’m certainly not saying any of that as a criticism. The art is simply wonderfully bizarre, squishy, bubbly, fleshy and all the better for it. It’s perfect for a tale of a planet gradually fighting back, the fauna taking over, infection spreading.

THE DARK JUDGES: THE TORTURE GARDEN – PART 4 – David Hine, Nick Percival, letters Annie Parkhouse.
And finally, again with the different art. It’s been a Megazine over the past few months of wildly different art styles across the five strips. And Nick Percival’s Dark Judges is a wonderful example of that. I’m not that huge a fan of this sort of painted, computer fx-laden art, but even I have to say it works beautifully on this particular strip.

There’s a Giger-esque beauty in the grotesque shapes. And with David Hine’s bizarre tale of Judge Death falling in love with poetry whilst we all wait for the marines to arrive from MC-1, writing and art are in perfect synchrony. It’s a strange thing, seeing the Dark Judges at rest and play. Unsettling and somehow sweet, you can almost, almost feel empathy for them. Well, nearly.

In the coming soon to 2000AD section of the Meg… there’s this… Wagner and MacNeil on Dredd again and big mecha mecha action and bigger guns to come.

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